Theory of mind explanations of how we know other minds are limited in several ways. First, they construe intersubjective relations too narrowly in terms of the specialized cognitive abilities of explaining and predicting another person’s mental states and behaviours. Second, they sometimes draw conclusions about second-person interaction from experiments designed to test third-person observation of another’s behaviour. As a result, the larger claims that are sometimes made for theory of mind, namely that theory of mind is our primary and pervasive means for understanding other persons, go beyond both the phenomenological and the scientific evidence. I argue that the interpretation of ‘primary intersubjectivity’ as merely precursory to theory of mind is inadequate. Rather, primary intersubjectivity, understood as a set of embodied practices and capabilities, is not only primary in a developmental sense, but is the primary way we continue to understand others in second-person interactions.
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